“My mouth is zipped”: A holistic self-report tool of children’s hearing and listening at preschool

Laura McFarland, Charles Sturt University, Australia (
Lysa Dealtry, Charles Sturt University, Australia (

Background: Although research conducted with children in the early years increasingly incorporates methodologies where children can have input, self-reports are rarely used with children under the age of six years. This is problematic as adult reports do not always accurately reflect children’s experiences. But, how do researchers best capture the perspectives and experiences of children under the age five years? There is a need for self-report tools for children under the age of five years that are well-designed and effectively implemented.

Aim: To develop and implement a holistic self-report tool to enable children’s active participation in research focused on their experiences of hearing and listening in a preschool setting.

Method: The self-report tool was developed by the researchers, with design features including an emoji-based rating scale of how well children could hear in particular classroom settings, and drawings about what it is like to listen at preschool. Drawings were accompanied by narrations. The tool was completed by 69 children aged 3-5 years. Data from two children were analysed as case studies.

Results: Children were able to effectively report on their own experiences of hearing and listening using this self-report tool. It was evident that the multiple opportunities for communicating experiences about hearing and listening were the key features that made this an effective tool. The children’s drawings have the potential to provide a more holistic picture of children’s experiences, and importantly, cast further light on or validate what is reported in the rating scale part of the tool.

Conclusions: This self-report tool reflected the importance of gaining children’s perspectives in educational matters that concerned them and promoted children’s active engagement through images and tasks that were of interest to them. The tool can likely be adapted for research in other areas, such as mental health and well-being.

Implications for children: We want to know what it is like for you to hear and listen at preschool. This will help us to plan fun activities for you to do.

Implications for families: It is important value what your child is saying about their hearing and listening experiences. This will help you intervene early if they are having difficulties.

Implications for practitioners: Listen carefully to children about their experiences with hearing and listening. This can help you to better support children who are having challenges.

Key words: children’s voices, early childhood education, innovations, self-report tool

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: